Why Women Stay

Leaving can be the most dangerous time:

  • Abusers often threaten to kill women, the children or themselves if she leaves
  • Many women are stalked and harassed by ex-partners
  • Violence can escalate when a Protection Order is served on the abuser
  • Even abusers in prison can send friends to assault or threaten women
  • If women leave they have less chance of predicting when violence will happen
  • Women who stay may be doing what they think is necessary to stay alive
  • Financial reasons
  • Women may not have any access to the family's money
  • Some women, especially migrant women, may not know where to go for financial help or may not be eligible for benefits.
  • Older women may have never been allowed to deal with money and they are worried they won't be able to survive
  • Going on the DPB may mean a huge drop in income and it might not cover all the bills
  • Women may feel they won't be able to get a job and support themselves
  • Women and children's standard of living often drops significantly when they leave

Nowhere to go:

  • If family and friends can't provide a place to stay, moving house can be very difficult for women with little money, or for women with disabilities or those who live in remote areas
  • Landlords may not want to rent to women if the violent person has caused problems in the household i.e. the bills haven't been paid, the neighbours have complained, and/or the house has been wrecked
  • Women believe that no one else will want them
  • Fear of losing the children
  • Abusers often threaten to inform CYFS that women are bad mothers/ crazy/ abusive
  • Abusers often say that if she leaves, they will never let her get the kids
  • Mistrust of government and legal systems can mean women are unwilling to allow authorities to become involved
  • If the abuser has access to the children, the woman cannot control what happens while she is not there
  • The children might not want their father to leave
  • Belief in family values
  • Women may believe that the family should stay together for the sake of the children, or that marriage/commitment is for life
  • The religious or cultural beliefs of some families mean that they pressure women to stay despite the violence
  • Women may believe that there needs to be a male around for the sake of the children.

Not being believed:

  • Many people still don't understand about family violence and blame women
  • Despite the realities of violence in lesbian relationships, many people believe that violence doesn't happen in lesbian relationships, or they think the violence is not as bad for lesbians; or it's "mutual"
  • Some people think women "make it up" to get back at men
  • Sometimes Police and Judges don't help or don't take violence seriously
  • It might be hard for people to accept that there is violence if an older woman has hidden it all her life
  • Abusers can be charming, friendly, and respected people in the community
  • Women want the violence to stop but they might still have feelings for the person that is abusing them
  • Women may remember the charming person that the abuser was in the beginning
  • Despite the violence, there may have been times of companionship and socialising, and the woman may not want to be left alone
  • Women might think that they can change the abuser
  • Abusers often promise to change
  • Social isolation
  • Abusers often isolate women, and make it difficult for women to have friends or stay in touch with their whanau/family
  • Migrant women and lesbians may feel ashamed or unsafe about speaking out in their close-knit communities
  • Women may risk losing a lot by leaving: a house, friends, money, status, etc.

Not wanting to be judged by others:

  • Some women feel so whakamaa/ashamed they are unable to tell others
  • Women may keep quiet in case people see them as a failure, a weak or bad person
  • Women who are abused can have low confidence and self-esteem
  • There are still many social expectations about being in a couple, and children needing two parents, which make it difficult for women to leave
  • Women may feel ashamed and guilty that they have hit the abuser, planned to hurt him, or have hit their children
  • Seeing abuse as normal
  • If women have been brought up in violent families, they might not know that there is any other way.

A combination of negative social attitudes towards women, economic factors, lack of social supports for women and their children and a lack of awareness about family violence, mean that it is often very difficult for women to leave an abuser.